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Gibraltar - Island Games and Cultural Heritage

Gibralta 1

Photo 1: View from the runway of Gibraltar airport

This July I was very privileged to represent the Isle of Wight in the 2019 Island Games, held in Gibraltar. The Island Games are held every two years and are akin to a mini-Olympics. Originally held as part of the 1985 Isle of Man ‘Festival of Sport’, they proved so popular that they have been held continuously since. I was selected to compete in the 10,000m and half-marathon.

While Gibraltar is not an island, its athletes have limited opportunity to represent their home on an international stage, hence their inclusion in the games.

 ‘Gib’ has a spectacular natural feature in the form of the Rock of Gibraltar (or ‘the rock’) and has a rich cultural heritage resource, which includes the UNESCO World Heritage site at Gorham’s Cave, a site of international importance due to its Neanderthal evidence. However, you are never far away from visible remains of the Moorish, Spanish or British occupation and defence of the peninsula, often in spectacular settings.

My journey to this event began in July 2018, when through my work for AB Heritage, I was fortunate to provide a heritage contribution to an Environmental Impact Assessment in the south of Gibraltar. Our work, an Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment for a proposed development there was used to provide a heritage assessment and was included in full as a technical appendix.

On both trips my sightseeing had to be slotted around the actual purpose of the visit, but the small size of Gibraltar means that whether travelling by bus, or foot (walking and running in my case), you can get a good sense of the place, although to my disappointment I still haven’t been to the castle!

Gibralta 2

My first time in Gibraltar, around site visits and archive research for the DBA AB Heritage were producing, I did my best to explore Gibraltar with pre and post-work runs.

My second time in Gibraltar for the Island Games I had to be a little more disciplined in order to try and keep the legs fresh for the events I was competing in. Although even the walking route to the track incorporated a stone tower with spiral staircase to surmount the cliff!

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The first of my events, the 10,000m, was on the Sunday evening, concluding the opening day of the games. The athletics complex was brand new (still being finished the night before the games) and its setting is truly spectacular, with the Rif mountains of Morocco visible above the back-straight from the stands. The stadium had been constructed on former car-parking of the Lathbury barracks complex, which remains to the north of the stadium.

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My efforts running the 10,000m and the half-marathon were sadly mixed due to a poorly timed virus (which led to a nasty bout of heatstroke after the former).

The scheduling of the half-marathon for the Friday did give me time to recover and enjoy some of the other events, with just some easy running in-between. The route was restricted to laps down the north-east side of the peninsula in order to reduce travel disruption. This also made the event easier to support allowing Gibraltarians to step out of their workplaces to mingle with family and teams from all islands and disciplines, which provided a real celebratory feel to the race.

Gibralta 5

It was a fantastic experience and I was both fortunate and privileged to have been able to visit Gibraltar for AB Heritage and then represent the Isle of Wight there in 2019.

The next games are in Guernsey in 2021 so I will be aiming to get selected and hopefully do better. In the meantime, I’ll be training, always with a keen eye for a heritage asset along my routes!

I will also be posting occasional pictures of heritage assets from my runs and from my various site visits for heritage assessments on the AB Heritage Instagram.

If you’d like to read a more detailed account of my time at the games and other running adventures, you can find my personal blog here.

Photo 2: Lookout tower atop 'the rock'; Photo 3: Cliffside tower; Photo 4: The athletics stadium, with Morocco in the distance; Photo 5: Crossing the finish line!

Posted at 09:33

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